Michael Moline, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 17

Michael Moline

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

This is your Florida House — men, whites, youth have the numbers

The Florida House is 76 percent male, 66 percent white, and has an awful lot of newcomers this year, according to data released by the Majority Office.

The Republican caucus is 82 percent male and overwhelmingly white, also at 82 percent, with 17 percent Hispanic and 1 percent African-American.

That last would be Rep. Byron Donalds, representing Hendry and Collier counties.

The 41-member Democratic caucus is 63 percent male, and nearly half — 49 percent — are African-American. Whites comprise 34 percent of the caucus, and Hispanics 17 percent.

Numbers reflect power. Although House Speaker Richard Corcoran has named Miami Representative Jeanette Nunez as his House speaker pro tempore, men will preside over the nine major House committees.

On the Democratic side, Janet Cruz of Tampa is minority leaders — the first Hispanic woman to hold the post.

For comparison’s sake, here is the state’s demographic breakdown according to U.S. Census figures: nearly 78 percent white; nearly 17 percent African-American; and nearly 25 percent Hispanic.

About those newcomers: There are 49 freshmen in the House this year, including 27 in the GOP caucus and 22 Democrats. Only 20 members are in their fourth year of service, including 17 Republicans and three Democrats.

Southeast Florida sent the most representatives to Tallahassee — 39. North Central Florida sent the fewest (8), followed by Jacksonville (9), the Panhandle (10), Southwest Florida (13), Tampa (19), and Orlando and the Space Coast (22).

The House skews young — 67 of the 120 members are not yet 50 years old, and the 30-39 group is the largest, at 36. Three are in their 20s. There are 35 in their 50s and three in their 70s.

Within the GOP caucus, the 40-49 age-group predominates, with 23 members. But it was close: There are 21 Republicans in their 30s and 20 in their 50s.

There are two age-group spikes among the Democrats — 15 each within the 30-39 and 50-59 age groups.

Orlando and the Spacecoast sent the most Republicans to the House, at 16. Southeast Florida sent the most Democrats — 26.

House freshmen get educated on how state budgetary ‘sausage’ is made

Florida House freshmen attended an introductory course to writing a state budget Tuesday. They learned that the process gives them sweeping authority, but within the limits of fiscal reality.

At present, Florida government is running a $3 billion reserve within a total budget of around $83.5 billion. But if spending continues at existing levels, that reserve will fall by half by this time next year.

And if that happens, the state will find it impossible to maintain its ability to borrow and its cash-flow obligations, while still providing services to the public, House Appropriations Committee chairman Carlos Trujillo said.

“The most important thing is to realize the responsibility that we have,” he summed up following the budget workshop.

“We have to pass a balanced budget. We don’t have any additional revenues. In order for us to meet our obligations, we have to manage our revenues with our expenditures. If our expenditures continue to grow, we have to find other places to save money.”

The 45-minute workshop was among a number of offerings during Legislature University, organized by House leaders to orient new members. You can find the lineup here.

Trujillo and budget committee staff director Joanne Leznoff led the discussion.

They covered the basics about the state budget.

“It’s a bill. It’s filed. It’s vetted through the process. It’s passed out of the House. It’s passed out of the Senate. It’s sent to conference. At the end, like any other bill, both sides have to match,” Trujillo said.

Freshmen might find the process hard to follow, he continued.

“Your first year, and probably your second year, the budget is almost a mystery,” Trujillo said. “You’re voting on it, and it’s very difficult to follow. Our goal today is that you’ll all have an elementary understanding of how that function works.”

Trujillo and Leznoff emphasized the Legislature’s sweeping authority over money. Unspent money reverts from an agency unless the Legislature says so. An agency can’t reduce its headcount in favor of higher salaries unless the Legislature agrees.

“Ultimately, they’re accountable to us,” Trujillo said.

“The decisions that you make are really much more than how much money you’re giving to an agency. It’s policy of what services you want that agency to deliver, and how you want that service delivery to occur,” Leznoff said. “The choices before you are many, and they are significant.”

There is one significant constraint, however.

“You don’t just pass a budget. You pass a balanced budget,” Trujillo said.

That’s required under the Florida Constitution — revenues and expenses have to match.

“It’s a zero-sum budget. If you’re adding here, you’re subtracting somewhere else,” he said.

Additionally, the Florida Constitution requires the Legislature to consider three-year trends when writing budgets. And the trend shows a $1.8 billion deficit two fiscal years down the road if spending and taxation continue at existing levels.

“This session is really a challenge and opportunity for us. We have to prepare for that 12 months out,” Trujillo said.

AIF emphasizes job-killing aspect of Florida’s workers’ comp increases

Business leaders emphasized the risk rising workers’ compensation costs pose to Florida’s economic competitiveness during an Associated Industries of Florida-sponsored discussion Monday.

“There are other governors competing against our governor for the next plant, the next manufacturing facility, the next high-tech jobs,” said Tom Feeney, president and chief executive officer of the business lobby.

“They are suddenly able to use our workers’ compensation situation against Florida, the same way our governor uses high taxes and high regulations that other states have to attract businesses,” Feeney said. “It’s putting us at a competitive disadvantage.”

Bill Herrle, Florida director for the National Federation of Independent Business, agreed and emphasized that the repercussions will travel throughout the economy.

“We know that this is going to be debilitating to small business,” Herrle said. “But we need to carry the message out there that this is affecting every layer of employment, including our very important public sector.”

AIF organized the discussion during its annual conference in Tallahassee.

The event coincided with a trial judge’s final order refusing to stay her ruling that a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation premiums were illegal, on the ground that they were reached in violation of Florida’s open-government laws.

Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers had issued an oral preliminary ruling on Friday refusing to stay that decision. On Monday, she put it in writing.

The legal issue remained alive, however, because the 1st District Court of Appeal had blocked Gievers’ order before she even issued it. Proceedings will determine the increase’s legality before that appeal court.

The increase promises to feature prominently during next spring’s legislative session, when AIF, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business groups will press lawmakers to do something.

The increase began to take effect on Thursday and will hit employers as their policies come up for renewal over the next 12 months.

Many critics blame Florida Supreme Court rulings striking down business-friendly reforms the Legislature approved in 2003. One ruling in particular — Castellanos v. Next Door Co., striking limits on attorney fees in workers’ compensation disputes — accounts for some 10 percent of the increase, according to the state Office of Insurance Regulation.

Those reforms pegged attorney fees to benefits actually won for workers, regardless of the time attorneys spent in winning them. That eliminated incentives for plaintiffs’ lawyers to litigate over small details, said Jim McConnaughhay, of the defense-side workers’ compensation law firm McConnaughhay, Coonrod, Pope, Weaver & Stern.

“Unquestionably, that’s where the savings were,” he said.

“What the Castellanos decision really creates is an environment where a mechanized and industrialized legal industry can gear up and begin to make these very small, garden-variety cases very, very profitable,” Herrle said.

“They have given license to file as many pleadings, nuisance claims, and run up bills, and then are able to go and ask a friendly judge in court for as much of an hourly rate and they can get for as many hours as they can find an imaginative way to create,” Feeney said.

The post-2003 environment “has been great for growth and in helping Gov. (Rick) Scott and our legislators in making us one of the fastest growing economies,” Feeney said, but the Supreme Court rulings threaten to undo that.

By contrast, the situation now might chase insurers out of the Florida market, he continued.

“Workers’ comp insurers can’t work efficiently and in a cost-effective manner unless you have insurance companies willing and able to engage in the business and turn a profit,” Feeney said. “Otherwise, they will just deploy their capital in some other line of business or in some other state.”

As for a legislative fix, Feeney estimated an AIF task force likely would release its proposals in late December.

He didn’t pretend a fix would be easy.

“If we’re going to address workers’ comp, it’s likely to be an all-out war in the Legislature,” Feeney said.

Florida Supreme Court rejects shift in insurance claims law

The Florida Supreme Court has overturned a lower-court ruling that would have made it harder for policyholders to collect on insurance policies when there is more than one cause for their losses.

At issue in Sebo v. American Home Assurance Co. was competing doctrines for resolving claims under all-risk policies in those circumstances.

Under the so-called “efficient proximate cause” theory, if the first cause of any damage — say, construction defects — isn’t explicitly covered, nothing else is.

Under the “concurrent law doctrine,” however, a homeowner can collect if any of the damage is covered.

“We conclude that when independent perils converge and no single cause can be considered the sole or proximate cause, it is appropriate to apply the concurring cause doctrine,” Justice James E.C. Perry Thursday wrote for a 5-2 majority.

That’s been the law in Florida for 30 years, said Richard Hugh Lumpkin of Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin in Miami, who filed an amicus brief on behalf of United Policyholders, a consumer group.

Still, the 2nd District Court of Appeal applied the stricter policy in ruling on the case. Other states, including California, use that standard.

“What the Florida Supreme Court is saying is that you apply the policy as written. There’s nothing new or different about that,” Lumpkin said.

“But if the efficient proximate cause doctrine had been made law in Florida, that would have changed things — made it more difficult for folks in Florida to collect their due.”

It also would have injected uncertainty into the insurance industry — both for policyholders and their insurers, he said.

“Let’s just say we breathed a sigh of relief” at the high court’s ruling, Lumpkin said.

The case involved a home in Naples, insured for $8 million, that had to be torn down after design and construction defects led to damage from rainstorms and Hurricane Wilma in 2005, according to court records.

Perry wrote that because the insurer “did not explicitly avoid applying the (concurrent law doctrine), we find that the plain language of the policy does not preclude recovery in this case.”

Appeals court allows workers’ compensation premium hike to take effect

A state appeals court allowed a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums to take effect on schedule Thursday, amid legal scrambling over whether the hike was illegal.

The 1st District Court of Appeal acted even before a trial judge could decide on a request to delay her ruling last week invalidating the increase under Florida’s open-government laws.

For her part, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled following a brief hearing in her chambers that no stay was warranted.

“It would not be appropriate for this court to approve further violation of the Sunshine Law and Public Records Law,” Gievers said.

But she bowed to the inevitability that the case would be resolved on appeal.

“I’m just trying to get you to the appellate court, where you want to be,” she told attorneys present in person and participating by telephone.

Even before resolution of the legal situation, businesses were treating the increase as a fact of life.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce, for example, issued a written statement complaining that the increase, as applied to new and renewal policies written during the next 12 months, would cost employers $1.5 billion.

“Many businesses are telling us they will be forced to delay hiring, or even cut existing jobs, in order to cover this increase in their premiums,” Carolyn Johnson, director for business policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said in a written statement.

“A rate like this puts Florida’s competitiveness and job creation directly at risk.”

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved the increase in September, based on recommendations by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI.

The office has designated NCCI as the rating agency for workers’ compensation insurers in the state.

James Fee, a Miami workers’ compensation attorney, filed suit, arguing that NCCI’s quasi-official status required it to operate under Florida’s open-government laws.

Fee complained that the council failed to open its deliberations to the public or provide its data to an actuarial expert he’d retained.

Gievers agreed Friday, and issued an order blocking the new rates from taking effect.

On Tuesday, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier filed a notice of appeal to the 1st District Court of Appeal. His office said that filing placed an automatic hold on Gievers’ ruling.

Altmaier appeared to rely on language in Section 9.310(b)(2) of Florida’s Rules of Appellate Procedure, allowing such stays when sought by public bodies or public officers.

But the rules make an exception for appeals in public records and public meetings cases. In that event, the stay “shall exist for 48 hours after the filing of the notice of appeal.”

In other words, Thursday.

A spokesman for Florida Workers Advocates, which represents workers’ compensation attorneys, said the organization believed the 48-hour rule applied. So did John Shubin, of Shubin & Bass, Fee’s attorney, in arguments to Gievers.

The matter was resolved when the 1st DCA issued an unusual order extending the stay for 10 days.

“On the court’s own motion, we temporarily extend the automatic stay of the order of appeal for 10 days following the trial court’s ruling on the motion to stay which appellant represents has been filed in the circuit court,” the appeals court wrote.

Thursday evening, NCCI released the following statement:

“We continue to believe that NCCI, Commissioner Altmaier, and the Office of Insurance Regulation have fully complied with the law. NCCI looks forward to presenting its case to the Appellate Court.”

Meanwhile, Johnson argued the rate hike amounts to a massive transfer of wealth from businesses to the workers’ compensation trial bar. NCCI and most business leaders blame the increase on escalating litigation costs — pointing to Florida Supreme Court rulings declaring unconstitutional business-friendly restrictions the Legislature approved in 2003.

Specifically, they cite Castellanos v. Next Door Co., striking caps on attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases.

“This accounts for nearly two-thirds of the rate increase,” the Chamber said. “And although the rate officially increases today, since the decision in April, the number of lawsuits and trial lawyer paydays have already increased.”

Business and insurance leaders hope the Legislature will find a way around the Supreme Court rulings when lawmakers reconvene in the spring.

Personnel note: Municipal power director Barry Moline California-bound

Barry Moline, the veteran executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, is moving to Sacramento to run California’s version of his organization.

“Barry brings leadership and passion for our mission, and we’re confident he will be a strong steward engaging the community, our membership, and the industry stakeholders,” said Michelle Bertolino, president of the California Municipal Utilities Association.

That organization includes municipal power companies in Los Angeles, Riverside, Anaheim, Chico and other cities, Moline said.

He has administered the Florida association, whose members serve 2 million people, since 1996. Earlier, he worked for the American Public Power Association in Washington.

His last day at his Florida job is Jan. 5 and he starts work in California on Jan. 23.

In California, “the issues are different, Moline said, but mostly the change will be one of scale.

“Municipal utilities there serve a bigger proportion of the population,” he said.

California officials told Moline they were looking for someone with strong association management skills, he said.

“Trade associations bring people together,” he said. “We don’t just lobby. It’s a forum to come together and learn from each other, and also to talk about how to serve the customers and communities better.”

Steve Schale reflects on a ‘race-to-the-bottom’ election year

Democratic political strategist Steve Schale realized that Donald Trump would win Florida 45 minutes after the polling places closed.

“Going into Election Day, I thought that Hillary Clinton had a 200,000 vote lead,” Schale, who managed Barack Obama’s Florida campaigns in 2008 and 2012, but sat out 2016, told the Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee Wednesday.

“By comparison, Barack Obama had a 150,000 vote lead going into Election Day in 2008. Donald Trump would have to win Election Day by nine points. Mitt Romney won Election Day by five points.”

In fact, Schale said, Trump won the day by 13 points.

As the votes came in, at 7:15 Schale thought Clinton had the election “in the bag.”

“By 7:45, I knew it was over,” based on heavily GOP Panhandle counties that were yet to report vote counts. “There were just not enough (Democratic) votes out there for it to play out.”

That’s how finely balanced Florida is politically, Schale said.

Since 1992, when Florida became a swing state, voters here have cast 50 million presidential election ballots, with Democrats enjoying an 18,000-vote advantage in that time — a 0.4 percent difference.

“It’s important not to over-read this election. Even though Trump won, Democrats won governorships in places like North Carolina,” Schale said.

“This was basically a race-to-the-bottom campaign. And, frankly, my party does not win races to the bottom. There are more Republican voters who vote in every election than Democrats. So when you get into a race to the bottom, we don’t win. We have to inspire people, as Barack Obama did in 2008.”

Florida is a “huge, massive place,” Schale said. Miami represents the world’s 32nd largest economy. Tampa ranks No. 57. Orlando’s GDP equals Kuwait’s. Voting patterns reflect the states of origin of Florida’s people, and the I-10 corridor is the fulcrum.

“Hillary Clinton did better in Tampa and Orlando than Barack Obama,” he said.

“Where she lost was in these places that between 7:15 and 7:45 came in and reported. Places like Pasco County, Barack Obama lost by 7,000 votes in 2008, she lost by 53,000.”

It was the 10th closest election in American history, Schale said, and Clinton won the popular vote by at least 2.3 million.

“We’ve not seen this kind of instability in American politics since the 1890s. Our politics are more unstable today than during two world wars, the Great Depression and the Civil Rights Era. It’s Americans calling out, crying out, ‘Please, Washington, be functional. Do something.’ ”

Getting there might be difficult. “The problem is, in both parties, the primaries have become so insane,” Schale said.

“My friends in Bush world, I remember asking them early on, ‘How are you going to win a primary when 60 percent of your primary voters in Iowa believe Barack Obama’s a Muslim from Kenya?’ On my side, same thing.

“That’s the challenge. These primaries are making the candidates more extreme than the country is. Until one of the parties or the other figures it out, we’re going to keep going back and forth.”

As evidence of consensus, he cited gun control. People get hot about it, yet 75 percent of the public supports banning weapons sales to people on the no-fly list, he said.

“Both parties continue to misread these back-and-forth elections as a complete repudiation of the other party and a complete endorsement of something else,” he said.

“One of these days, somebody’s going to figure out that you can run for office on a fiscal conservative, socially liberal message that appeals across party lines, and is going to win 400 electoral votes.”

Clinton supporters should not hope the Electoral College might deny Trump the presidency, Schale said.

“One thing about electors, they’re picked by the candidates. While there have been faithless electors over time — one or two, maybe, at most — you will not see any change in the Electoral College this year. They are slates that are delivered by the campaigns to the state.”

And Schale wishes Trump would shut up about nonexistent voter fraud.

“This voter fraud thing that’s out there right now is absolutely abysmal,” he said. “Not only because it’s a lie. It’s because it plays into the basic cynicism people have about institutions. All of us in the process, we all have a responsibility to defend the institutions.”

PSC approves compromise $811 million rate increase for Florida Power

The Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved a compromise rate increase for Florida Power & Light Co. that will cost customers $811 million over four years.

The utility had sought $1.3 billion, but agreed to the compromise with large customers and the Office of Public Counsel, which represents ratepayers before Florida’s utility regulating body.

The commission vote was unanimous.

The agreement provides for a $400 million rate increase to take effect on Jan. 1. A customer using 1 kilowatt of electricity each month can expect to pay an extra $63.49.

Rates would increase by $211 million in January 2018, which will work out to $65.88 per month.

Rates would increase by an additional $200 million on June 1, 2019, to bring online the Okeechobee Clean Energy Center, a new, high-efficiency generating plant.

FPL agreed to abandon natural gas hedging, or buying future supplies based on what the utility estimates the price might be. The public counsel’s office estimates that bad bets have cost customers $6.5 billion since 2002.

In addition, the deal calls for the power company to invest in energy alternatives including solar and battery technology.

AARP, the Sierra Club, the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, and a number of federal agencies declined to join the settlement, although Public Counsel J.R. Kelly endorsed it.

“There is a great deal of customer protection in the agreement,” PSC chairwoman Julie Imanuel Brown said.

“Taken as a whole, and given the amount of broad support across the customer group that signed on the settlement, I do believe it produces rates that are fair, just and reasonable and are clearly in the public interest,” Brown said.

Commissioner Ronald Brisé agreed the agreement would ensure good service to consumers and that “their pockets won’t be injured in the process.”

Brisé was not sure the hedging language was prudent, but said: “This is a compromise settlement, where you have parties who have come together and addressed the concerns that they have, and have come to an agreement that makes sense and they can live with.”

Kelly, whose office originally argued that FPL should roll back rates by $600 million dollars, said the deal was justified.

“We were able to include certain issues in there and the commission could not have decided during the rate case,” he said. “Such as the elimination of hedging, the solar portion, and a couple of other aspects.”

The Sierra Club complained that the agreement would leave FPL overly reliant on natural gas derived from hydraulic fracturing.

In a letter to the panel, deputy director Nachy Kanfer expressed concern that “FPL asking customers to fund more gas-burning power plants that are neither necessary, nor a good value given competitive alternatives in the market such as solar power and energy storage, which FPL has repeatedly acknowledged can lower the cost of service.”

Eric Silagy, president and chief executive officer of FPL, said the agreement would allow the utility to replace 48 1970s-era jet aircraft engines.

“These are engines that used to be n Boeing 707s,” Silagy said. “These are very old aircraft engines we are now replacing with high-efficiency, very clean, six natural gas-driven engines that will be able to provide more electricity, more reliably, and much cleaner.”

The deal allows rates lower than FPL originally sought by tinkering with its allowed return on investment and depreciation of plants and equipment. It allows the company to earn as much as 11.6 percent, although the target is 10.55 percent.

“Such a scheme for manipulating returns has never been allowed by the commission outside of a settlement, and no legal precedent exists for it outside of a settlement,” AARP complained in a letter to the commission.

Silagy argued such returns are financially necessary. “The key is to be able to attract investors,” he said. “The credit rating agencies and Wall Street believe this is an appropriate level for us to continue to be able to move forward.”

Regarding solar power, the company can bring online no more than 300 megawatts of solar capacity during each year of the agreement.

“They’re not given a blank check,” Kelly said. “They have to come in and prove that any solar project is going to save the customers money.”

 

Insurance office appeals ruling blocking workers’ comp premium hike

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has appealed a trial court ruling blocking a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums, putting that ruling on hold pending review by a state appeals court.

The office filed its notice of appeal Monday with the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled on Friday that the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, which proposes rates for workers’ compensation insurers in Florida, failed to open its deliberations to the public or provide its data to an actuarial expert retained by the plaintiff in the case.

That, Gievers concluded, violated Florida’s open-government laws.

Miami workers’ compensation attorney James Fee had challenged the rate hike in his capacity as a business owner who buys insurance for his employees.

His lawsuit named NCCI and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier.

The rating agency said it also planned to challenge Gievers’ ruling.

The increase, valued at $1.5 billion, was due to begin taking effect on Thursday and would roll out over the next 12 months as business owners’ policies come up for renewal.

The office approved the increase on Oct. 5.

NCCI and business interests blame the increase on two Florida Supreme Court rulings declaring unconstitutional state laws capping attorney fees in workers’ compensation lawsuits and restricting temporary permanent-injury benefits to two years, for driving insurance costs upward.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida have launched separate task forces to devise a legislative fix to those rulings. The matter promises to feature prominently when the Legislature convenes next spring.

NCCI said through a spokesman that it had no comment on the development.

The appeal amounts to “a heavy, dirty lump of coal” delivered to Florida, said Mark Touby, President of Florida Workers’ Advocates.

“The workers’ comp system is supposed to benefit two groups – injured workers and the businesses that employ them,” Touby said in a prepared statement.

“Judge Gievers’ decision protected both their interests, but an appeal only serves the interests of the insurance companies who orchestrated the rate increase in the first place. Don’t blame the lawyers and don’t blame the courts. Take off the blinders and see that the fox is guarding the hen house.”

Business is unfairly targeting attorney fees when the real blame falls on “ridiculous excess profits insurance companies have enjoyed – or perhaps they just can’t see because the transparency in rate-making is non-existent,” Touby said.

“We are confident that the judge’s thoughtful, well-reasoned ruling will be upheld on appeal. But in the meantime, Florida businesses will be forced to pay unnecessarily high premiums, while workers’ comp insurance companies enjoy this early – and undeserved – mammoth present.”

Richard Corcoran: In the House, “We are very, very conservative”

The Capitol Press Corps got its first scolding, albeit a gentle one, from Richard Corcoran last week.

The new House Speaker was repeatedly asked during a news conference about how Senate President Joe Negron‘s priorities during the coming legislative session might conflict with his own.

“You people are so conditioned and trained. But so are we — I don’t fault you,” he said after the House’s Organization Session.

“There are 160 legislators. We’ve got to move past, ‘this is a speaker’s priority; this is a Senate president’s priority.’ They ought to be corporate priorities of both chambers.”

The old way of doing things — powerful legislative leaders imposing their will on the Senate and House — is over as far as Corcoran is concerned.

And everybody — his members, the Senate, lobbyists, the press — is going to have to learn that.

When asked whether he could support Negron’s goal of boosting higher education funding, Corcoran objected: “We are trying to transform and move away from a top-down system in the House.”

Corcoran appointed committee chairs, but wants to let them chose committee members and subcommittee chairs, and let all of them decide upon priorities together.

Does even he know what this system will produce?

“You never do,” Corcoran replied. “There’s not a single person in the history of the Legislature who can predict what it’s going to look like come May, whatever it is, at this point in time.

“I’m encouraged, though. I think there is a vast difference between the House and the Senate. We are very, very conservative. You can see that just in the rules, and how it’s going to play out over the next two years.”

He did allow that “Sen. Negron … has always behaved, in my opinion, as a great statesman. He’s a great communicator. That’s why he’s Senate president.”

To Corcoran, there are “good” compromises, in which parties accept less than they’d hoped for in the normal run of governing.

“Bad compromise is when you’re violating your principles that you know — you know — will lead to a worse environment, a worse Legislature, a worse outcome in education, a worse outcome in health care,” he said.

“If you’re just going to capitulate to the special interests and the mainstream media and all the powers that be because you’re afraid or somehow it’s not worth the fight, there’s nothing honorable about that. And there’s nothing dogmatic about that.”

Corcoran intends his ethics reforms as a cudgel to enforce good behavior. He hopes they will provide data points with which to embarrass wayward lobbyists and public officials.

“Hopefully, coming soon is the Top 10 list of everything you can imagine,” he said. “Top 10 biggest spenders. Top 10 lobbyists who got taxpayer money. Top 10 county commissioners who let lobbyists do their jobs because they stink. All of that’s coming soon.”

Consider what he said about the Florida Education Association over its legal challenge to the state’s tax-credit scholarships, which steer poor kids into private schools: “evil,” “disgusting,” “repugnant,” and yes, even “crazy-ass.”

The teachers union later tweeted from its official account “we invite @richardcorcoran to have a serious & civil discussion about all of our students’ needs.” FEA president Joanne McCall also personally tweeted, “Slamming us in a speech is one thing, solving problems is another.”

“Feel free to call me,” she added, even listing her phone number.

At the press conference, Corcoran said that “any way we can force more innovating, more risk taking, more competition in our education environment, all the studies suggest that’s what gives you a better outcome with students.”

He added: “If you guys have studies that suggest that kind of competition produces worse results, then we’ll certainly evaluate those studies. But they don’t exist.”

Yet he insisted his “rhetoric is not against anybody.”

“My rhetoric is not against lobbyists; my rhetoric is not against members; my rhetoric is not against the union,” he said. “My rhetoric is for the truth. And that’s a knowable thing. That’s an objective thing. And then you fight for the truth.

“If you don’t, why are you even in the process?”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons